ISTANBUL (AFP) – A pro-Kurdish lawmaker has been temporarily suspended from the Turkish parliament for saying the word “genocide” during heated discussions on changes to the constitution, state media has said.
Member of parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Garo Paylan said four communities had been lost and “driven from these lands in large massacres (and) genocides,” referring to Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Jews, according to Anadolu Agency.
Videos showed lawmakers from the pro-government Justice and Development Party (AKP) angrily interrupting Paylan’s speech.
He has been banned from attending three sessions in the parliament, which is currently voting on provisions in a controversial bill to change the constitution and increase presidential powers under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Paylan made the comments during a speech in which he criticised the draft constitution for giving one man extensive executive powers.
Turkey vehemently denies a genocide against Armenians took place. AKP lawmaker Naci Bostan slammed Paylan’s comments as “provocative” and “unfair”, Anadolu said.
But Armenians, backed by many historians, a growing number of foreign parliaments and the European parliament, say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically killed in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey admits large-scale massacres took place, but says they were perpetrated in self-defence against what it describes as a Russian-inspired uprising by Armenians.
It says 500,000 Armenians died in fighting and of starvation.
Paylan’s comments came after a vicious fight broke out in parliament on Thursday as lawmakers voted on parts of the 18-article constitution bill which – if passed – will be put to a referendum at the end of March or early April.